Parents will always want to keep their children safe. They go to great lengths to childproof their homes and pay for childcare to always have someone around.
Of course, you can’t eliminate risk. And some risks are easier to quantify and understand. Nutrition, for instance, is always atop the list of concerns; if you don’t give them the best iron supplement for kids, they will risk growth deficiency. But other hazards might be hiding in plain sight; garden plants can be unsafe for a child to handle.
How do you ensure the highest level of safety, within reason, for your child? Where do you draw the line for tolerance? Here’s how you can address this challenge with a professional approach.
Identify the risks and consequences
Every home might have unique features, and therefore hazards for your child. You can refer to an online checklist for childproofing your home, but that should only serve as the starting point for safety.
Be thorough in your inspection of the home environment. And don’t limit yourself to the indoors, either. Look around the outside of your property, and evaluate the neighborhood as well. If you plan to visit friends or family or take them to your office, cover those areas as well in your risk assessment.
Threat identification isn’t the only part of this activity. You also need to determine the potential consequences. Envision the worst-case scenario and the likelihood that it will happen. What actions would you take in an emergency? If something goes wrong, what measures would you wish had been in place?
Risk assessment might sound like a form of paranoia, but it isn’t. It’s actually an exercise in imagination and awareness. Paradoxically, it can help set your mind at ease because once you’ve run through all the potential hazards and scenarios, you’ll know that your bases are covered. You and your child can live with minor scrapes, bruises, and falls.
Find capable and ready assistance
Creating and maintaining a safe environment for children isn’t an easy job, and it isn’t one that you should handle on your own. Even single parents should be able to rely on others for assistance.
You can involve the child’s grandparents or other family members to help in the risk assessment as well as daily care activities. If you have older kids or trusted caregivers, they can also prove to be reliable partners.
But a good system is only as effective as its parts. So you have to include any assistants in your assessment. Are they capable, ready, and effective?
Elder family members, for instance, are likely to have extensive experience in caring for children. You know that you can rely on them to anticipate different scenarios and take the right action. But are they physically up to the task for an entire day?
By contrast, your child’s older siblings might have the energy to keep up with them. They can even have fun going about their duties. But how well do they understand the hazards and urgency involved? In the bath, for example, does your older child know how easy it can be to drown in even a little water?
Teaching your child safety
When it comes to your child, risk tolerance has to be low. Children are still developing physically; they are less coordinated and prone to injury.
Yet kids are also developing mentally. And part of that development must include experiential learning. It involves allowing them to explore the world with all senses, discover their limits by pushing them, and making small mistakes.
Thus, we need to balance our desire to protect our children versus the dangers of being over-protective. And gradually teaching your child the principles of safe behavior, both at home and around strangers, is a core part of that development.
As your child grows older, take the time to teach them the rules and slowly lift restrictions around the home. They can enter other rooms if they don’t mess around with the shelves, for instance. Once they have demonstrated that they understand what’s safe, they can play unsupervised in the yard.
Eventually, the balance of childproofing in your home will shift. Your strategy will favor home-proofing your child instead. And that’s also part of a professional risk management approach.
You have to continually re-evaluate what measures you have in place, identify areas for improvement, and know when you can relax. At some point, you can trust your child to look out for a big chunk of their own safety. But they will only get there with your guidance.